Neutrophils are initially the predominant cells involved in the host defence of bacterial infections, including periodontal disease. Aggressive periodontitis is associated with Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans, a Gram-negative capnophilic microorganism. Infections caused byA. actinomycetemcomitans are not resolved by the host immune response despite the accumulation of neutrophils at the site of inflammation. To better understand the role of natural host defence mechanisms in A. actinomycetemcomitans infections, the interaction of phenotypically diverse strains of this pathogen with human neutrophils was assessed directly using techniques such as genetic labelling with the gene for green fluorescent protein, fluorescence-activated cell sorting and fluorescence imaging. The study included clinical isolates of A. actinomycetemcomitans represented by self-aggregating, biofilm-associated and isogenic planktonic variants. Data obtained showed that complement-mediated phagocytosis of A. actinomycetemcomitans was generally inefficient regardless of strain-specific serotype or leukotoxin production. Furthermore, the majority of ingested bacteria remained viable after exposure to neutrophils for 1 h. Interestingly, uptake of antibodyopsonized bacteria resulted in the rapid cell death of neutrophils. This was in contrast to ingestion of complement-opsonized bacteria, which did not affect neutrophil viability. The methods used in this study provided reliable and reproducible results with respect to adherence, phagocytosis and killing of A. actinomycetemcomitans when encountering human neutrophils.
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